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I'm sorry you're so ignorant and stupid

Last week, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney got into a bit of hot water when he described the Big Dig as a "tar baby" and said that his political advisors had warned him not to seek control of the project. When several folks pointed out that this term had become a racial epithet, he apologized -- but no one at the event had complained.

Back in May, when Tony Snow held his first briefing as Presidential Press Secretary, he also used the term when he deferred from even discussing hypothetical intelligence programs. He was also excoriated for this, and has pledged to not use the term again.

This is silliness, almost on the scale of the infamous "niggardly" incident of 1999. The "tar baby" is a perfect metaphor for a situation where you should simply walk away from, a situation that will hopelessly entangle you should you touch it, that you will not be able to extricate yourself from. Its use as a racial epithet is the actions of the racist, the ignorant, the hateful, and to surrender the term to them is to grant them a victory.

Ironically enough, I think the most recent racial use I've seen of it has been against Condoleezza Rice. But it's fair game to use racial epithets against conservative blacks.

It's been brewing for a long time. My college paper once got into hot water over a headline about "japping out." The author of the headline was slammed all around, and there was even some fighting over who was insulted -- was it the Japanese, or Jewish American Princesses?

I reject the racists' claiming of "tar baby," as I do the idiots who see racism in "niggardly." The next logical move is to go after other terms that might be mistaken as racist. I see complaints about "spic and span," "chink in the armor," "dancing a jig," and "honky-tonks."

Racists and bigots deserve no quarter, no victories. To surrender perfectly innocent words and phrases is to grant them far more influence than they should have.


Comments (51)

Just like the Tony Snow inc... (Below threshold)

Just like the Tony Snow incident a while back. Snow had the good sense to refuse to apologize.

You keep talking like that ... (Below threshold)

You keep talking like that & I'll have to wop you upside the head.

Excellent post, Jay!<... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

Excellent post, Jay!

I agree 100 percent.

Unfortunately just another ... (Below threshold)
DOUG BOOK:

Unfortunately just another example of the near total lack of backbone on the right. We bring it upon ourselves by knuckling under to these people at every opportunity.

I refuse to get involved in... (Below threshold)
The Listkeeper:

I refuse to get involved in this Tar Baby tar baby.

Thank you. By the ... (Below threshold)
tblubird:

Thank you.

By the way, what moron termed it a "racial epithet"?

Hmmmm.Yes, but rem... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmmm.

Yes, but remember that the term "White Cracker" is always acceptable in polite company.

I was going to type somethi... (Below threshold)
moseby:

I was going to type something here about calling a spade a spade but decided not to.

It's all in the usage ... a... (Below threshold)
pennywit:

It's all in the usage ... as in ... "Bush never should have involved us in the tar baby in Iraq."

What??? You mean my spade i... (Below threshold)
Joe:

What??? You mean my spade isn't a shovel???? Or is it a pitch fork. Nope, thats for hayseeds. Whoops. Hay bales. hayls bales, I hadda enough of Symantec symantics. Well enough sheist for one post.........

Phrases and words drop out ... (Below threshold)
astigafa:

Phrases and words drop out of the common lexicon all the time -- "Love" is a lipstick, "Freedom" is a feminine napkin, all the good words are dying. Having a "gay" afternoon, ed, hmmm?

Something shifts and suddenly there's a connotation there that wasn't there before. If you want to think it's a vast left-wing conspiracy, go ahead.

All's fair in love and politics, and Mitt made this statement not so long after Snow's little drama; he should probably know better. That fact that he doesn't should tell you something.

Does the Republican party need another clueless person on the national scene? Shit; ship them coals to Newcastle.


Agreed, pennywit. Like...</... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Agreed, pennywit. Like...

"Clinton's niggardly approach and response to al Qaeda and terrorism throughout the 1990s really was a tar baby for the U.S. in the early 20th century..."

You're right, it's all about context.

I think the battle against ... (Below threshold)
McCain:

I think the battle against these silly alterations of our language was lost when "chairperson" and "firefighter" became preferred terms. If the lowest common denominator is offended, we seem to change the word.

I'm feeling gypped on this ... (Below threshold)
Lurking Observer:

I'm feeling gypped on this thread.

Let's keep this comment are... (Below threshold)
bungaloebill:

Let's keep this comment area spic and span.

No Wop, Spic, or Slope was ... (Below threshold)
Mitchell:

No Wop, Spic, or Slope was implicated. They are of much lesser "value" to the race mongers, as the black race has the #1 pole position, as it were.

My wife is a Spic, and she is a quite lovely one at that.

Get in line dude...<p... (Below threshold)
Gmac:

Get in line dude...

The PC counterculture has been thriving off the fact that they can suborn words that once meant one thing to now have an entirely different connotation, for good or bad.

"Culturesmog" and "Endarkenment"
I did't coin the words but they fit.

Wow....you are some sick fo... (Below threshold)
Mike:

Wow....you are some sick folks. What bile did you all spew before you could so freely, and anonymously, find a place to gather and hate.

No, I'm not a left-winger, nor even a Democrat.

I'm sure that sooner or lat... (Below threshold)
Mike:

I'm sure that sooner or later, some angry member of the LGBT community will raise a stink over the word "thespian" -- especially if it's connected in any way to Rosie or Ellen.

I'm not "thespian: Mike. I ... (Below threshold)
Mike:

I'm not "thespian: Mike. I forgot in my previous post to ask Gmac...just what and who are the "PC counterculture?" I see broad general terms thrown around by both sides and I'm just curious> Can you be specific or is that just some silly label Limbaugh et al like to toss around?

The Society of the Perpetua... (Below threshold)
Bugz:

The Society of the Perpetually Offended has to have SOMETHING to occupy their time...

Seems to me that it is the ... (Below threshold)

Seems to me that it is the intentions of the person and context in which it is used, determine whether a word is an unacceptable epithet.

Jay means nothing racial when he uses the term 'tar baby' as he is using it in a nonracial context.

David Duke would probably use it in a racial context and it would be unacceptable in civil discourse.

liberal PC seeks to outlaw the very use of terms such as these in a futile attempt to control discourse.

Ironic given the ACLU's claims regarding free speech.

Liberal hypocricy however does not lessen the objection when such terms are used in a racial way.

Jay's refusal to allow others to 'highjak' the meaning of a term into exclusively defining what the term means is admirable but flies in the face of the ongoing 'evolution' in the generally accepted meaning of a term.

Snow and Romney could have easily avoided the whole blow-up by substituting 'briar patch' for 'tar baby'.

Snow is right in not apologizing. We are not responsible for others interpretations of what we say, we are responsible for our intentions.

This is truly ironic, showi... (Below threshold)
Adjoran:

This is truly ironic, showing that the complainers have no idea of the origin of the "tar baby."

It is one of the "Uncle Remus stories." Remus was a slave on a Georgia plantation who told stories to the small son of the owners, who grew up to be Joel Chandler Harris. Harris published the stories from memory, in dialect, and became one of the leading scholars on the West African connections of American slaves, particularly in language and culture, long before there was a modern "civil rights movement."

As with most of the Remus stories, the tale is an allegory in which the weaker party, B'rer Rabbit {representing slaves}, wins over the stronger B'rer Fox {representing owners} by using his wits instead of brute strength. It is also a good general value lesson on several levels. Harris' research found similar tales in West African folklore . . .

But the tar baby IN NO WAY represented slaves or blacks; that is an accident of the color of tar. The tar baby is the trap. He don' say nuthin'.

B'rer Fox, he lay low.

;-)

[email protected] astigafa</p... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

@ astigafa

Having a "gay" afternoon, ed, hmmm?

That's the best thing about you astigafa, you're always so happy and gay.

All joking aside, I'm curious as to when, and how, the term "gay" became common usage for describing homosexuals. I'll have to look it up.

•To begin with, if anything... (Below threshold)

•To begin with, if anything every was a gigantic Tar Baby, the Big Dig
"shor is."  Kick that baby, and you are sure to be trapped
terrible.  If you are lucky, there will be a nearby Briar Patch
you can beg your opponents and the MSM not to throw you into, but more
as likely you'll be "et 'live" by the hungry skulk.

•How the folks who supported Ebonics (AAVE) can cry foul on the Uncle Remus stories is beyond reason.

•The original story was not a particularly negative racist story. 
Some of the Uncle Remus stories are better fodder for the whiners, though I think they are not likey to decry bleach as a racist chemical.  This one, however, depicts Brer Rabbit as suffering an almost fatal end for his degrading and physically abusing what he thought was a silent black child.  That sure is something you'd think Al Sharpton would stand
behind, rather than kick.  

That the term has been misused by racists should not impugn its original meaning.  The ugly use of common terms by hateful extremists of all sorts is so common we might find the English Language sadly purged if we carried this "politically correct" notion to broad extremes.  Even the term "chimp" would become a lightning rod for the linguistic police.

So all you sensitive types, skip to another post:

–Thinking about the Middle East is kicking a Tar Baby.

 –Trying to deal with the solvency of Social Security is kicking a Tar Baby.

–Funding Medicare and Universal Health insurance is kicking a Tar Baby.

–Criticizing racist Blacks for being racist is kicking a Tar Baby.

–Arguing with a Moonbat is kicking a Tar Baby.



And I refuse to apologize to anyone offended by the term.  Instead
I recommend they read the original story and then make a logical argument for their position based on its origin.

Hmmm.Personally I'... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

Personally I'm hardly ever offended by whatever term is used. However I am generally offended if the term selected is imprecise. I can't begin to count the number of times I've been called a "chink" or a "jap". I was born in South Korea, that means I'm a "gook".

Then again maybe there's something to that old "I can't tell you yeller fellers apart" schtick.

LOL.

Still lovin that Mariah Car... (Below threshold)
moseby:

Still lovin that Mariah Carrey side-boob.

Hmmmm.And... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmmm.

And I refuse to apologize to anyone offended by the term. Instead I recommend they read the original story and then make a logical argument for their position based on its origin.

Personally I love the old uncensored comedies. One favorite was Amos & Andy, and not for the sterotypes either. Personally you can find every single personality type in Amos & Andy in every ethnic group on this planet. But what I found highly entertaining was the sheer comedic ability of the actors and actresses on that show.

Pretty much all of comedies today are based off the same general formula designed to be completely pc and to offend nobody. And fairly boring as a result.

Which is probably why stand-up comedy, which has no such restrictions, is far more entertaining than most tv comedies.

Hmmmm.Sti... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmmm.

Still lovin that Mariah Carrey side-boob.

It is one for the Ages.

I agree . . .side boob is d... (Below threshold)
Mitchell:

I agree . . .side boob is delish. Wish it were attached to someone a little less idiotic.

"I think the most recent... (Below threshold)
MyPetGloat:

"I think the most recent racial use I've seen of it has been against Condoleezza Rice."

What examples have you got? -aside from Rice being branded incompetent?

In a thread about the inapp... (Below threshold)
Lurking Observer:

In a thread about the inappropriateness (or not) of the term "tar baby," on a fairly conservative blog, I must admit that there is a distinct irony that three or so posts down, there is a picture of Joe Lieberman in black-face.

Said pic, of course, comes from one of the more liberal sites, i.e., firedoglake's Jane Hamsher.

Would it be inappropriate, then, to suggest that Jane is now entangled in a "tar baby" of her own making? And that her "sorry you're insulted" apology is niggardly in its logic?

Just wondering....

That goddamn pic of Joe L i... (Below threshold)
moseby:

That goddamn pic of Joe L in blackface is too funny. Gotta make a poster of that one.

God forbid somebody should ... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

God forbid somebody should mention Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn. Or quote from the back of a dollar bill.

Political Correctness is a big part of the mass neurosis of the left, and it annoys the hell out of me. I've long felt that being a Liberal is as much about forcing your value judgements on "other people" than it is about politics.

Mike, I didn't see your pos... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

Mike, I didn't see your post. Who is the Political Correctness crowd? Teachers. Journalists. Newscasters. Liberals. Yes, Liberals.

God forbid we play a heinously violent game of football and somebody wins. God forbid if children get graded on their performance. God forbid if a parent has an icky gun, either for (ick) sport shooting, (ick) hunting, or (double-ick) self-defense. God forbid if school kids have to actually say the Pledge of Allegiance or celebrate Christmas. God forbid if a city has a cross in their official city seal. God forbid if a schoolgirl brings a Midol to class, or if little kids want to play dodgeball at recess. God forbid if somebody actually blurts out the word God. Do I have to go on? I can, but so can you unless you've been off the planet for the last 20 years.

Ever heard a conservative object to ANY of these things? No. So some generalization is legitimate, even from the evil Rush Limbaugh. As a matter of fact, the entire point of your politically correct thread is to object to Jay's article because SOMEONE might find it objectionable.

My goodness. That's PC for "kiss my butt".

You can only be offended by... (Below threshold)

You can only be offended by what you let offend you. There's wisdom in the old rhyme, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me."

"Harris published the stori... (Below threshold)

"Harris published the stories from memory in dialect, and became one of the leading scholars on the West African connections of American slaves"

Adjoran, that quote sounds good, and if I did not read your post, you would have pulled off your intellectual dishonesty on the Wizbang crowd-not that they would have cared-. Joel Chandler Harris was a racist who wanted the slave trade reinstated. And he was about as much as an expert on the West African connections of the American slaves as you and J Tea are. He did, what Elvis did after him, he stole the stories from slaves he overheard telling tales from West Africa on the plantations, and made huge profits by putting them in book form. In a word, his entire franchise of children's books were stolen. I am sure those slaves aren't holding their breaths for their royalty checks:) But like Elvis, who stole the music from the Mississippi Delta, and made huge profits himself. Harris was nothing more than an opportunist, who saw an opportunity and took it.

There is no noble hidden agenda in his writings, and you will have a hard time convincing me that his "Tar Baby" characterization, was not meant to be in some way demeaning to the black slaves he saw on the plantation.

Now as for Mr. Mitt Romney, I don't know what's in his heart nor do I care, and the fact that he made the comment doesn't bother me one bit. Nor does the fact that he is a Mormon, and not too long ago blacks could not be officers in their church. If he ever runs for a national office, and I happen to like where he stands on the issues, I will vote for him period end of story. Because I could care less what's in a person's heart, as long as they don't try to limit my freedoms or my chance to earn a living, they could go home and pray to the church of the billy goat that all black people would go away every night. As long as they keep it in their home; hey, no harm no foul.

And Epador, I don't support "ebonics"! And -other than a few school board members in the Oakland, California unified school district- neither do most other black people

Mike:Lighten up, d... (Below threshold)

Mike:

Lighten up, dude. Where'd all this bile and spewing and hate thing come from? yeesh.

There's a name for everyone. You either get offended or you don't. I'd venture to guess if someone calls you a name and spits in your eye, you should be offended, if not, then don't worry about it.

That's good, FN, that you d... (Below threshold)
Mitchell:

That's good, FN, that you don't think it's bad to bar folks of a different race from another racial group's meetings.

Just like the NAACP branch in Durham, NC and many other places have always done.

So you would acknowledge racial discrimination is ok in private groups.

FN: I believe Harris publi... (Below threshold)
epador:

FN: I believe Harris published his work at least 15 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

That would make it kinda hard for him to have stolen stuff from "slaves."

He's not the first nor the last writer to take tales from another culture and publish them. That hardly makes him a criminal.

A link or two to support your other assertions might help your argument. Yet the vehemence seems to undo rather than help your position.

Lastly, did you look to see what the Oakland School Boards (before and after their Ebonics fiasco) did regarding Harris's books in their school libraries?

[BTW JH stole his work from... (Below threshold)
epador:

[BTW JH stole his work from Robert Roosevelt, who had published the stories in Harper's years before, having learned the oral tradition from his own Southern family that learned it from THEIR slaves.]

Yup, TR's uncle is the real opportunistic and exploitive villain, F-N.

"Snow and Romney could have... (Below threshold)

"Snow and Romney could have easily avoided the whole blow-up by substituting 'briar patch' for 'tar baby'."

Briar patch is every single bit as objectionable as tar baby.

And ed, regarding "gook"... I object to anglo for the same reasons. I'm white. But I'm not anglo. I'm scandinavian. Anglo-saxons were the *other* guys.

Hey, FN: has Farrakhan tak... (Below threshold)
Adjoran:

Hey, FN: has Farrakhan taken you for a ride in his spaceship yet?

How was that? Fun? Ride around any pyramids?

It's all in how offended yo... (Below threshold)
Candy:

It's all in how offended you decide to become: my dad grew up in East Boston in the 30's, where it was commonplace for signs to be posted in windows stated "No Irish Need Apply". I'm half Italian, half Irish (with some Norweigian thrown in, but nobody picks on them to my knowledge) - we were then referred to as Wops and Micks - and these were derogatory terms.

I personally choose to poke fun at only myself and "my kind", which would be the Wops and the Micks. Honestly - my mother, who is full-blown Sicilian, was called the dreaded "n" word on more than one occasion. My understanding is that the southern-most Italians were invaded by both Mongolians and Africans, who mixed with the local populace then left them to sort it out, so you see Asian and African features in many Italians.

Our kids are so watered down they need a spreadsheet to figure out what percentage of which ethnic group they make up. And might I add they are GORGEOUS :)

I watched "Mind of Mencia" last night, and if you want to see someone who doesn't miss offending a single ethnic group, include his own beloved "beaners" - he's the one to watch. But he does it in such a way that you know he loves them all. He said something last night that summed up my own philosophy as an American "mutt" - he said that America is a melting pot made up of all of these different groups, and American would suck if even one of us was missing. I could probably do without a handful of people I know :) but the sentiment remains the same - good luck to most of Americans if we think we have blueblood - most of the French up here in Maine have Native American in them - and they are proud of it NOW, but I suspect one kept it low back in the day.

Jay Tea - thanks for another insightful post. I know what you mean about words being ruined - but at this point, I would not suggest any college kids using the word "niggardly" or the term "tar baby" on a thesis or term paper - and don't call your big macho Italian hubby "gay" or he will FREAK out.

epador, you are right, Harr... (Below threshold)

epador, you are right, Harris published his works 15 years after the official ending of slavery. But that fact is irrelevant to this discussion. He STOLE the stories when he was a young child working on a plantation among slaves. Unles he is some sort of prodigy I am guessing he was an adult when he started his plagiarism.

Mitchell barring individuals of a different racial groups from PRIVATE meetings, acknowledged. Your point? So yes, you can meet in peace now.

And Adjorn, actaully the ride was fun, Farrakhan played his violin for me,I asked him why he helped to assassinate Malcolm. ;)

Why do you call it "STOLE" ... (Below threshold)

Why do you call it "STOLE" the stories? I would only ask this: if Harris were a black man from that time who only heard these stories and later published them even though he never set foot on the west African coast, even if he was born after or near the abolition of slavery, would you say he STOLE them? I'm just curious.

I suppose every biographer out there STOLE the stories of the people they wrote about too. Why, they must have been "opportunists". Right? And stories that were carried on in American Indian culture by word - when they were written down and published, were they STOLEN? Plagiarized?

Everyone clearly knew from where Harris' stories came. He never claimed them as coming from his own imagination. Now THAT would be plagiarism.

I'm sorry Oyster, I missed ... (Below threshold)

I'm sorry Oyster, I missed the part where he actually paid the slaves whose stories he lifted. Or, for that matter, where he gave them credit for the stories.

I'm sorry, field-negro, who... (Below threshold)

I'm sorry, field-negro, who was he supposed to pay? Those who may have been telling the stories in Atlanta, or say North Carolina or perhaps Virginia? Did anyone know who the stories original authors were? I would venture to guess that those who hold an unfavorable opinion of Harris merely resent the fact that these stories were published by a white man.

Again I ask: if Harris were a black man from that time who only heard these stories and later published them even though he never set foot on the west African coast, even if he was born after or near the abolition of slavery, would you say he STOLE them?

I seriously doubt that fiel... (Below threshold)
tomlynk:

I seriously doubt that field-negro asked Farrakhan about the murder of Malcolm X. If he had, he would have been ejected from the spaceship at a very high altitude.

FN, that's where the black ... (Below threshold)
Mitchell:

FN, that's where the black libs are today?

I don't participate in activities which exclude blacks, or any other minority, for that matter. I suppose that makes me less of a racist than you, not that you care about the substance of things.

So, were the brother's Grim... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

So, were the brother's Grimm, H.C. Anderson, Bullfinch and others also plagarists? I don't recall them paying anyone for the stories they published.




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